OUSD police chief accused of racial slurs

August 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The police chief of Oakland's schools is under investigation for reportedly making racial slurs against a black officer.

The three officers who say they listened to racial slurs by Police Chief Pete Sarna consider it a serious matter. In fact, one of them has filed an official complaint against him with the school district and the other two have signed statements confirming what happened.

On July 18, Police Chief Pete Sarna and three of his staff attended an Oakland police charity golf tournament at Sequoyah Country Club. The racial slurs were reportedly made while an officer drove Sarna and two of his sergeants from the golf course.

"They were just driving home and he just, Sarna, turned around and looked at the African American sergeant, went into this tirade," said complainant's attorney Joe O'Sullivan.

O'sullivan represents the other sergeant who was in the car, a white sergeant who later filed the complaint against Sarna. He recalled for what his client said happened.

"He called the African American the n-bomb several times, told him he had no right to live in La Marinda because he's an African American, he didn't use that word, he should be hung in the town square because he's an African American, and that he was the last African American he would ever hire and he's just as soon kill him," he said.

O'sullivan says that days after the incident, Sarna approached the African American sergeant.

"He acted like a mafia guy and isolated the African American, told him nothing had happened, never happened, and there's been subtle intimidation," he said.

This is not the first time, Sarna has been in trouble. He's a former Oakland police lieutenant who at one time had close ties to Governor Jerry Brown. As attorney general, Brown made him a deputy director of the State Justice Department in 2007, but Sarna resigned after he was cited for a DUI. As Oakland schools police chief, Sarna has been credited with helping start a popular free summer camp where kids can play in a safe environment.

Sarna has been chief for the last two years. He did not return phone calls from ABC7 News. The African American sergeant told ABC7 he is lawyered up, but did not go into detail regarding the incident. In the meantime, the school district confirms they are investigating the matter and has placed Sarna on paid administrative leave.

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